1. One benefit, of the many, of having Marcus Smart in the starting lineup is that he can take on whichever of the opponent’s guards that Brad Stevens deems to be more of a threat. In this game, that was Bradley Beal. Beal got only two shots off in the first quarter, as Smart locked him up in his own personal torture chamber. Beal either didn’t get the ball or was forced to immediately give it up upon receipt. There will be more on Smart later, but him being in the opening five has changed everything for Boston to start games.
2. The Celtics struggled to shoot the ball early, as they were just 4-of-20 from behind the arc in the first half. What they did do well was attack the rim, especially Kyrie Irving. And they often sent a second player to the basket for offensive rebounds. On this play, Irving misses, but Theis is there to clean it up:
3. Speaking of Theis: he and Brad Wanamaker have shown some good chemistry the last two games with Boston shorthanded. This may be in part due to the two being teammates for two seasons with Brose Bamberg in Germany. Wanamaker attacks a closeout off the bounce, while Theis just finds some space in the paint. Wanamaker makes a quick decision for the easy dunk. Simple, but effective play:
4. You better believe that whenever Jayson Tatum breaks a player down off the dribble for a loud finish at the rim, the highlight will be here. This is becoming a once-per-game occurrence for Tatum:
5. In the first half, Semi Ojeleye gave the Celtics some productive minutes. This was good to see. In the second half, not so much. Part of the issue was Ojeleye regressed back to shooting only jumpers. Last time out, against New Orleans, he was on the attack off the dribble. More of that and less jumpers would go a long way.
6. Once again the Celtics had trouble with closing situations during parts of the game, both at the end of the first and second quarters this time. It’s unclear if it is a lack of focus or creativity in the play-calling, but Boston is leaving points on the board. In a close game, that will eventually cost them.
7. This play might seem like it was part of a fever dream for Celtics fans, but it was real. And it was spectacular:
8. There were three heroes in this game for Boston: Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Kyrie Irving. Let’s start with Morris. Once again, the Celtics would have been lost without him. Morris scored 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting, and pulled down nine rebounds. But it was his play in the fourth quarter that was the best. Morris hit 4-of-6 shots, and all four of his free throws, for 12 points in the final frame. He’s been one of Boston’s best clutch players all season and he helped get the Celtics to overtime to set up further heroics from his teammates.
9. We love to talk about Smart making “Smart plays”. These can range from getting a steal or block, or beating everyone to a loose ball, or taking a charge in a key moment. It’s hard to know what they will be, but you know them when you see them. Against Washington it was two huge offensive rebounds in overtime. The first led to a Terry Rozier three and the second got Smart a bucket of his own. Those are extra possessions that you don’t generally expect a 6’4’’ guard to steal you. Unless it’s Smart. Then you should very much expect it.
10. Irving saved his best for last in this game. In regulation, it looked like he put the capper on the game when he did his best Bob Cousy impersonation by dribbling around the Wizards and then finding Tatum for a dunk. Unfortunately, the Celtics forgot to block out Beal on a missed free throw and had to work overtime.
That last part begs the question: should the Celtics have fouled up three at the end of regulation? Did they do it too early, as there were 13 seconds left? Did they foul the wrong guy? Fouling, or not fouling, at the end of the game when you are up three is a debate that continues to rage on around the NBA.
11. What an overtime it was for Irving though. He scored 12 points, but none were bigger than his back-to-back dagger three-pointers. The first came with Wall draped all over him. The second was one of those “I’m the best player on the court, and you know it, but you can’t stop it” plays. He pulled up from 30-feet and drilled the jumper as calmly as he would a shot at Boston’s practice facility. Special player making special plays.